2020 was an important year for SAP Invoice Management by OpenText (VIM), introducing licensing changes, technical, and functional updates designed to help businesses increase the ROI of their software investment. With the addition of new and enhanced workflows, interface improvements, robotic process automation capability, and artificial intelligence and machine learning functionality, VIM users will be able to strategically improve efficiency, increase capacity, and expand how they use VIM's powerful tools beyond finance into additional business units. These updates also serve to align VIM's roadmap with the overall strategy and timeline for SAP Fiori and SAP S/4HANA for on-prem and cloud environments.
Product Release Cycle
In October 2020, OpenText released the newest versions of VIM. For SAP ECC the current version is now 7.6 and for SAP S/4HANA you can upgrade to 20.4. Both versions are scheduled to be supported through 2025 with two additional releases planned each year. If you are still using SAP ECC 6.0, keep in mind that it will be fully supported until 2027, but many new intelligent technology features in coming releases will rely on an SAP S/4HANA platform. Keep this in mind as you consider your immediate upgrades and updates to your VIM solution. Today's initiatives could simplify your eventual migration or create detours from a smooth transition path.
The first change happened in March 2020 when OpenText notified all existing VIM customers of a significant change to their licensing structure. In short, the announcement stated that "VIM customers are now entitled to use any of the SAP Digital Content Processing by OpenText Solutions that support sales orders, remittance advices, quotations, order confirmations, delivery notes, HR documents, and other use cases." It also stated that all metrics would now refer to 'number of documents' instead of 'number of invoices' indicating a more document agnostic approach for the VIM platform. Alone, this seemed like somewhat of a semantic change to the license agreement, but in the following October the full scope of their intent became clear.
Taking VIM Beyond Finance
In October 2020, OpenText released a solution update that provided the powerful functionality required to take advantage of the change in license. As of October, OpenText's Vendor Invoice Management (VIM) 7.6/20.4 includes the power of their Digital Content Processing (DCP) solution. This merger of applications allows businesses to employ fully automated, digital processes beyond VIM's traditional finance focus into the wider range of essential business documents. In effect, OpenText has transformed VIM into a powerful document automation platform that they now refer to as VIM Beyond Finance, able to process invoices, order confirmations, delivery notes, sales orders, remittance advices, HR documents and more. Many organizations are already taking advantage of expanded capability to manage workflows for vendor onboarding, new employee documentation tracking, university student grade management, and even medical certification tracking within large pharmaceutical firms.
The bottom line is that existing VIM customers can now expand their footprint to build upon their existing platform, and new customers implementing VIM for the first time are able to use it for a much greater range of use cases. In either case, VIM's established workflow pattern is used to automate the processing of incoming documentation by paper, fax, email, EDI, or more advanced portals or business networks like SAP Ariba, Coupa, or GEP's SMART Source-to-Pay. This allows a business to flexibly utilize each source channel as they grow and mature without having to implement additional solutions.
Expanded RPA Capability
One of the strengths of an intelligent business solution is the ability to leverage robotic process automation (RPA) for many of the time-consuming tasks required throughout business processes. With this update, VIM expands its automation capability with SAP iRPA (Intelligent RPA), providing additional integration points into VIM for calls to an RPA solution.
For example, in a sales order process the system can use an RPA bot to pick up an email from an inbox that includes a sales order and capture it into the VIM system. It can then evaluate whether to archive the document, send it to OCR, or send it through to a more complex business rule framework. Once it posts or creates the sales order, another RPA bot can send an update to the CRM system, update an Excel file, and trigger an email confirmation to the organization's Account Executive that created the sales order. (Get specific details about executing this process flow in "How to leverage SAP Invoice Management and SAP Information Capture by OpenText with SAP Intelligent RPA")
The possibilities to save time and eliminate simple manual tasks with these types of automation are endless, and can amount to hundreds of thousands of minutes saved per year within a large organization.
VIM and IC Improvements
This update includes a wide range of technical updates, workflow improvements and functional additions that expand the capability throughout the VIM solution. Below are some of the major additions, but not an exhaustive list. Please contact us if you would like complete details.
Manual Validation Triggers
One of the workflow improvements introduced in the 7.6/20.4 update is the ability to easily trigger validation on individual documents from the business center workplace. Traditionally, the validation process has been a first-in, first-out workflow where all documents were queued and the AP team addressed them one-by-one in the order they were received. With this update, VIM provides an Execute button in the Ready for Validation step that opens the validation client screen allowing instant validation access on any invoice as needed. This enables processors to prioritize urgent invoices that need immediate attention, maintaining the remaining queue of invoices to be addressed next. In concept, this seems like a simple change, but it provides a substantial amount of flexibility that allows processors to address documents in the time, type or purpose order that matches their business requirements.
VIM's 7.6/20.4 update also includes a new integration that allows the system to translate user comments from other languages. Most often required at large firms, this is valuable for international organizations with users that share responsibility for a process even if in different regions and speaking different languages. Now they can easily add and read workflow comments with translations provided within the solution whether through the SAP GUI or Fiori interfaces. Of course, administrators do need to integrate VIM with a translation service like Bing Translate, Google Translate, or to activate the functionality. Prices for translation services can vary depending on factors such as translation volume, languages, and timing, but there are a range of options that match most use requirements and budgets.
Business Entity Determination
In the previous release of Intelligent Capture, there were challenges in determining the correct vendor or customer business entity for non-PO invoices or sales orders. The problem was rooted in IC not fully utilizing the address-based search used by ICC/BCC. It could leverage IBAN or Tax ID to determine a vendor, but those are often not listed on a US-based invoice even though common in Europe. The new update refines the underlying system logic to enhance and automate the way vendors and customers are determined, allowing for accurate business entity determination for US and European sources.
There is also an advanced machine learning component so if the system cannot find a business entity, it is simple to train it for the correct association and future invoices and orders will not cause exceptions.
Transfer Training Data
While Intelligent Capture was able to migrate old BCC training data into a new solution, it lacked the capability to import additional training data after setup. This was an efficiency barrier since many companies hoped to utilize quality systems to test and train their solution on high-volume vendors before go-live or on a non-production system. They didn't want to have to start from scratch in their production environment.
With the newest release, businesses can easily import training data allowing them to start training on vendor and document scenarios early in the development process. Then as part of the go-live cutover, they can transfer the complete training data into the production environment. This saves a substantial amount of work and allows for a much more efficient training and upgrade process.
Page-based Extraction Control
A common use case that ICC/BCC was not able to handle in the past was where only a few pages of a submitted document needed to be captured. Cover pages, detailed security instructions, company overview mastheads, boilerplate distribution disclosures, and closing cover pages all add additional pages that take time and document count to capture, even though they aren't important to the business use of the documents. To address this issue, IC can now limit document extraction based on a number of pages instead of automatically capturing the complete document. It is now possible to choose to extract X number of 1st pages and/or X number of last pages. For example, it is possible to configure the system to extract the first 2 pages and the last two pages of every document. This control allows for increased efficiency and less total capture time per document.
New PDF Extraction Mode
There's also a new extraction mode for PDF documents which allows OCR to skip the e-text pages. This allows the system to simply read embedded text instead of scanning and re-interpreting an entire page. This reduces capture time as well as the data volume of the complete document within the system.
Patch Code Sheets
Patch codes are unique barcode patterns that are used to aid efficient scanning of batches of documents. They provide instructions to the scanner on how to organize and group specific pages within a stack of documents. Although this practice is becoming less common as paper-based processing is being replaced by electronic submission, some regions still rely on it. IC can now read and interpret Patch code sheets, and stop OCR for documents that should not be captured.
Expanded Fiori Support
SAP Fiori is the design and user experience layer of intelligent enterprise applications, and has not been left out of the VIM 7.6/20.4 updates. Currently, there are two generic apps, eleven VIM-specific tiles, fifteen P2P and O2C focused tiles, and twenty ODATA analytical data sources. This means that Fiori tiles and the sophisticated, streamlined experience they bring will continue to be an integral part of the VIM environment for years to come. We look forward to seeing additional support and expansion of the Fiori experience in future releases.
An important note to understand in this release relates to analytics tiles. In a strategic decision, OpenText is not providing specific Fiori reporting tiles for analytics, but they are providing the data feeds that can be consumed to deliver analytic data. This allows customers to choose any Fiori Analytics tools and configure the apps to their specific needs. This allows for better integration with SAP overview pages and allows for insights and drill-down using native SAP S/4HANA tools.
Fiori Vendor Invoices Report
One new tile which has been added however is the equivalent of VIM Analytics in Fiori, and they call it the Vendor Invoices Report. It will not be as extensive or contain all the data in VIM Analytics, but will provide similar functionality and display the most important data and document information. Businesses will be able to select and filter all the invoices registered in VIM, and view the invoice details including fields, history, attachments, processing and approval log. It also supports the semantic navigation to and from SAP apps like "Vendor Fact Sheet" and "Manage Purchase Orders."
Additional OCR Analytics
Another recent update is expanded OCR analytics in the business center workplace. As of 7.6/20.4 a new node is available that provides capture data identifying how well your OCR solution is working. This is extremely useful for monitoring your system as well as identifying possible problem areas with specific vendors or document types. Some of the data it provides is:
- Percentage of fields that have been captured correctly
- Percentage of fields that have been validated or have needed to be validated
- What fields have been validated etc.
- And many more
Each of these features combine to deliver a more efficient and effective document capture process that is less prone to error and allows your team to focus their time on value-adding tasks that contribute to specific business goals.
Global Economy Improvements
Support for New E-invoicing Mandates
Earlier, we mentioned e-invoicing mandates becoming more popular, and as the digital transactions continues to saturate the global economy, VIM will continue to expand support for each new option. In this update, VIM now supports Italy's FatturaPA as well as Germany's X-Rechnung that is focused on public sector transactions but is gaining more acceptance and use. As these mandates become more popular, VIM will keep extending the solution to the new use cases.
New Invoice Standards
New invoice standards have been adopted in both Switzerland and India, and both are already being supported with this newest update. VIM even supports the use of unique QR codes that are being utilized in an increasing number of invoices from India. It can read the signed QR code and extract the 64-character Invoice Reference Number (IRN), then post the invoice including the IRN according to the latest localization updates.
Chinese and Russian Invoice Support
In another vital improvement for international firms, Intelligent Capture now supports invoices from both China and Russia. Both of these are pre-configured so are available to all customers.
Machine Learning Trained Smart Coding
A new feature available in this update is targeted at the non-PO invoice side, and is called Smart Coding. In the past we used auto-coding which allowed administrators to predefine coding values for certain vendor and company code combinations. Smart Coding extends that feature with advanced machine learning algorithms that automatically detect similar invoices and propose accounting lines based on past experience and customer confidence. When a GL Account is the same, but the cost center is unclear, the system can present multiple choices ranked by how often it has been used in the past against that vendor. Once a choice achieves close to a 100% confidence rank, admins can configure the system to automatically propose it, and send the invoice directly to an approver.
Maintaining an efficient VIM environment is an essential task that requires continual monitoring and analysis. Fortunately, the ROI of an efficient system aligned with strategic business goals far outweighs the time and effort spent. Much more than a 'version number only' update, VIM 7.6/20.4 incorporates multiple upgrades and additions that deliver substantial benefits in both efficiency and capability, and should be incorporated in any business's technology roadmap.
Optima's VIM Health Check
As the SAP Gold Partner with the most successful VIM projects in North America, the Optima ECM Consulting team knows how to maximize VIM's value within enterprise SAP environments.
To help clients get the most from their system, we developed a unique VIM Health Check as part of our proprietary Optima Accelerate™ methodology. This initiative is designed specifically to evaluate your VIM implementation's unique configuration, integration, usage, and storage health. We then deliver a comprehensive report outlining current risks, required maintenance, and system improvements that would boost short- and long-term ROI. Finally, we can help you prioritize your needs and establish effective timelines and budgets to align your system with your business goals.
This detailed analysis will provide essential insights into your current solution and ensure the long-term success of your company's intelligent infrastructure. Download the program overview or contact us for more details at OptimaECM.com/contact/
For additional information on optimizing enterprise business solutions, check out these helpful resources: